CHENNAI: The Agasthishwarar temple in Pozhichalur, an ancient Chola shrine, is one of the Navagraha temples near Chennai. The main sanctum which is in a unique apsidal shape (called gajaprishta vimanam in Sanskrit), faces east.
The Shiva Linga in the main sanctum is Swayambhu or self-manifested. It is said that on the 7th, 8th and 9th of the Tamil month of Chittirai (mid-April to mid-May), the rays of the sun fall directly on the Lingam.
There is a large mandapa with stone pillars in front of the Shiva sanctum. Goddess Parvati, now worshipped in this temple as Anandavalli, was once called Thirukkamakkottam Udaiya Nachiyar as the inscriptions here reveal.
According to the tradition of this temple, a huge crowd gathered at Mount Kailash in the north for the wedding of Shiva and Parvati. In order to balance the earth, Sage Agastya was sent to the south. The Linga is known as Agashthiswara as it was worshipped by this sage.
This temple is famous for Shanishwara or Planet Saturn who is enshrined in the mandapa, facing west with his vehicle (vahana), the crow in front.
This is a rare image as the deity’s right hand is in chin-mudra or janana-mudra and not holding any weapons. Shani Bhagavan is said to have prayed to Lord Shiva here and was cleansed of his sins. The temple is also famous for the worship of Bhairava, a form of Shiva, whose sanctum is located in the auspicious north-east corner of the temple.
Two 12th Century Chola inscriptions in Tamil, unfortunately now damaged, have been etched on the wall of the Anandavalli Amman shrine. They mention the ancient names of places nearby.